Thursday, March 30, 2017

the art of human rights

This morning, I took my children to an art exhibit.

They weren’t exactly gung-ho (more like riotously grumpy) but I decided this time their preferences didn’t count. They would see art and they would appreciate it, end of discussion and get in the car.


As a board member of the Arts Council of the Valley, I had already been treated to a private tour of the exhibit. Our guide, a woman who knew everything about Shahn (she wrote a book about the guy, for Pete’s sake), gushed information. Her passion was contagious.


I don’t think I did a very good job conveying that passion to the kids. But I sure as heck tried! I wrote down questions for the younger ones and encouraged them to draw a picture they liked. I pointed out interesting facts, read the long quotes out loud, and babbled commentary. Guys, his art is so relevant even today. Isn’t that amazing? And, Look at all the hands. See how he draws small hands on the politicians he doesn’t like? If he were alive today, he’d be having a blast.


Two kids were begrudgingly compliant and one refused to appreciate anything, but my younger son, bless his heart, was totally into it. He had fun looking at Shahn’s photos and then finding the same people in his drawings. He asked questions that I couldn’t answer and got all wrapped up in copying one of the drawings.


The kids were ready to go after about thirty minutes, but I stretched our visit to an hour. I hoped that just by hanging out in the space, some bits and pieces of Shahn’s message would seep into their souls, shoring them up so they could spend their lives fighting for human rights.

Or just not killing each other.



Whatever.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (3.30.15), babies and boobs, braided bread, grape kuchen with lemon glaze.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

teff pancakes with blueberries

These days, I can’t seem to keep us in groceries. Before this month was even half gone, I’d blown through three-quarters of the food money. In hopes of getting to the end of the month, I’ve been making menus and then—miracles of miracles—sticking to them.

Two things:

1. My mother suggested I'm running out of money because I buy avocados. I told her that I thought my money shortage had more to do with the number of people in our family and the fact that the majority of them are growing. I also told her that if seven dollars a month was what was breaking the bank, then we were in much better shape than I previously thought and I should be able to remedy the situation right quick. And then she said, Well yes, you do have four growing children, and I was like, Yes, Mother. I do.

2. “Making menus” is short for “standing motionless in front of the back hall pantry shelves for extended periods of time while racking my brain for ideas, and then, suddenly, dashing down cellar to stare into the freezers’ abysses while mentally trying to conjure potential well-rounded dinners from unappetizing frozen blocks of food stuffs.”

Anyway.

So far, no scurvy. Last week I splurged on fresh veggies, but then I discovered some packs of spinach and the tail end of a bag of peas in the freezer so I haven’t even yet used the fresh kale and broccoli that I bought. Amazing! Oh, and there is a box of instant potatoes—from our donut-making experiments—in the back hall. Until those white flakes get used up, things are not truly desperate.

I kind of like the making-do challenge. I’ve been fixing big (since the meals aren’t necessarily elaborate, “thoughtful” might be a more accurate word ) breakfasts: baked oatmeal, omelets, bran muffins, oatmeal with frozen strawberries. Yesterday morning I made teff pancakes with blueberries.

My son, on the hunt for a new recipe for a pancake supper that he never got around to making, discovered (and pooh-poohed) the recipe that had come from one of my emails from the NYTimes cooking website. I, however, thought it looked interesting. The recipe was similar to my regular cooked-oatmeal pancakes, yet different enough—all that teff!—that I was curious. Even though I feared the kids might revolt, I made a double batch. It was high-time I used up those last two cups of teff that had been hanging out in my freezer since who-knows-when.

Everyone loved them—surprise, surprise—and my older son raved. (I think he was just pleased that I was making pancakes on a day when he didn’t need to leave early for the rescue station.) All wholegrain, the pancakes are so dark that they appear dangerously healthy-looking, but the texture is light and tender. And even though they only have a little molasses, and no sugar, they taste sweet.


Teff Pancakes with Blueberries
Adapted from the NYTimes Cooking website, Martha Rose Shulman's recipe.

1 cup teff flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon salt, scant
2 eggs
2 tablespoons molasses
1¾ cup buttermilk (I used vinegar-laced milk)
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup leftover cooked oatmeal
1-2 cups blueberries

The night before:
Combine the wet ingredients, including the cooked oatmeal, and store in the fridge. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

In the morning: 
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix to combine.

Ladle the batter onto a hot, buttered skillet and dot with blueberries. Cook the pancakes over medium heat—they take a little longer to cook through than other pancakes, so take your time. When the pancakes are bubbly and getting dry around the edges, flip and finish cooking on the other side.

Serve hot, with butter and syrup.

This same time, years previous: absorbing the words, wuv, tru wuv, Good Friday fun, the boy and the dishes, cream puffs, oatmeal crackers, coconut brownies.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

the day we did everything

Saturday felt like the first real day of summer. Full of projects and people, it was the sort of day that meandered and stretched, leaving us enough time to get things done, but not so much time that we were tempted to throw in the towel before it was over.

It started with a three-mile run, just me and my husband, followed by a quick trip to town to deposit our little black car at the recycling center (my husband dumped our old van there the day before) (yes, for a few weeks there, our place looked like a used car lot). On my way to retrieve my husband from the dump, I dropped my older daughter off at the farm. She would spend the whole morning there, working and riding, and getting sunburned.

Right after breakfast, a “fend for yourself” affair (I had two bran muffins with butter), we jumped into some kitchen projects. My younger daughter made meringue cookies, I made a fig-walnut couronne, and my younger son, with my husband's help, made two loaves of Cuban bread. Melissa washed dishes. While I cooked lunch, my older son and I listened to Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me!, vigorously shushing anyone who walked into the kitchen and dared speak.

After lunch—sausage, spinach, and black lentils over brown rice—one of my older son’s friends came over. The two of them decided to have an apple pie-baking competition and jetted off to town for the ingredients. Melissa walked over to my sister-in-law's house for a visit. I lounged about for a bit—coffee, chocolate, a thick slice of couronne—before finally hoisting my butt off the couch and heading outside where my husband and some of the kids were building a dog kennel under the clubhouse (and my younger son had the chance to drive the truck by himself, o the thrills).

Seeing as it was so sunny and warm, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to do a little weeding. One thing led to another and soon my by-chance foray into the strawberry patch had exploded into a full-scale gardening project. The bakers were instructed to put their apple pies on hold, and Melissa, back from her visit, was ousted from her reading chair. Rototilling, weeding, mulching, planting, plus some visiting, even—we did it all.



After several hours, I called it quits, much to the minions' relief. The kids put away the tools, and we took turns washing our feet in the bathtub. My older son tossed a couple packs of hot dogs on the grill, and I pulled leftover potato salad from the fridge. My younger son sliced a loaf of his fresh bread. My younger daughter arranged her meringue cookies in glass mugs, layering them with strawberries from the freezer and whipped cream. With the leftovers, she made a special “cake” and stuck a candle in it in honor of my dad who was celebrating his birthday out of state (Happy Birthday, Dad!). We ate our food on the deck, looking out over the valley and luxuriating in our accomplishments and exhuastion.


After supper my older son and his friend went to see a play and the rest of us got showers and cleaned up the kitchen. My older daughter shaved her horse. I read to the two younger kids before shooing them out the door (they had decided to camp out in the dog kennel). I made popcorn, and my older daughter and I binged Parks and Rec while my husband worked on taxes.


This same time, years later: the quotidian (3.28.16), seven-minute egg, our oaf, the visit, on being together, warts and all, breaking the habit.

Monday, March 27, 2017

the quotidian (3.27.17)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace


This time, not overfilled.


Fig-walnut: utterly delicious.


The kid, it turns out, makes killer tortillas.


Spigot sparkle.


Such softness.


Dragon breath. 


Apparently, one of my kids pulled a "Tom Sawyer" on the baby we were sitting.


For his back: a brand new physical therapy ball.


Farm dogs: air, for treats.

This same time, years previous: the Tuesday boost, maple pecan scones, a list, the quotidian (3.26.12), a spat, fatira, brandied-bacony roast chicken.

Friday, March 24, 2017

apricot couronne

The two younger children and I have been zipping through season two of The Great British Baking Show (but on Netflix). Evenings that the older children are off doing their big-kid things, like youth group or biology lessons, the younger two kids blitz the house and get showers, and then we snuggle up together on the couch to salivate our way through another episode.


Last week I got inspired by one of the technical challenges. I’m not normally compelled to copy the show's recipes—many times they are way too involved and frumpy, and I am not inclined toward fussy decoration of any kind—but as soon as I saw the apricot couronne, a glorious twisted crown stuffed with dried apricots, raisins, walnuts, and orange zest, I simply had to make it.


This wreath is traditionally made for Christmas, but it’s simple enough to be made just for anyhow. I made it on a subdued Saturday afternoon, while a freak snow fell. I hoarded the leftovers, eating them for breakfast over the course of several days.


I have plans to make another one, but this time with figs instead of apricots. Or maybe some of both? I’m not sure yet.


Apricot Couronne
Adapted from Paul Hollywood’s recipe, showcased on Season Two of The Great British Baking Show.

Paul uses metric system measurements, so I did, too. Feel free to convert to the US Customary Standard Stupid System, if you wish. Or better yet, buy a scale. I love my scale.

Update on March 25, 2017: Just made a couronne using dried figs in place of the apricots. It is exceedingly delicious.

Do ahead: An hour before starting (or the night before, if you’re better than me at planning ahead), put the chopped apricots in a bowl and cover with the orange juice to soak.

for the bread:
250 grams bread flour
5 grams salt
8 grams yeast
50 grams butter, at room temperature
135 ml milk, warmed
1 egg, lightly beaten

Measure all the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix on medium speed for about six minutes. (Or stir with a spoon and knead by hand, whatever.) Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic, and set in a warm place to rise until double.

for the filling:
120 grams dried apricots, chopped
¼ – 1/3 cup orange juice
90 grams butter, at room temperature
70 grams brown sugar
35 grams flour
60 grams raisins
65 grams walnuts, chopped
zest from an orange

Drain the apricots, reserving the juice for the glaze.

With a wooden spoon, stir together the butter and sugar. Add the flour, zest, raisins, walnuts, and apricots and stir to combine.

Roll the dough into a rectangle. Spread with the filling and roll up as you would sweet rolls. Cut the roll in half, lengthwise, leaving a couple inches of one end intact. When you’re done, the dough roll should resemble a pair of pants for a really skinny, long-legged person. Twist the dough legs together, keeping the cut sides facing up as much as possible.

Shape the twist into a wreath, weaving and pinching the ends together. Transfer the wreath to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic and let rest for 30-45 minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25-35 minutes. If the dough darkens too quickly, tent with foil partway through.

to finish:
apricot jam (I used peach), slightly warmed
confectioners’ sugar thinned with the reserved orange juice to make a drizzle-able glaze
slivered almonds

As soon as the wreath finishes baking, brush the top and sides with the apricot jam. Remove any blistered raisins. Allow the wreath to cool to room temperature before drizzling with glaze and then sprinkling with slivered almonds.

This same time, years previous: lambs, the quotidian (3.23.15), the pigpen, the quotidian (3.24.14), of a moody Sunday, the nieces, sour crumb cherry pie, caramelized onions.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

pop quiz: what did you eat for lunch?

Monday of last week, this was my lunch:

I had leftover kale and sauteed mushrooms in the fridge, so all I had to do was heat up the veggies and fry an egg.

***

On Friday, I had black forest ham, grainy mustard, mayo, and sharp cheddar on homemade rye. And chips. (Sometimes the younger kids fuss about getting stuck with all the leftovers while the older kids get to pack the "special" food—the yogurt cups, crunchy apples, granola bars, and chips. Lunch that day was all about me trying to be diplomatic.)

The rye came from one of the guys that works with my husband. They were at work and the radio was playing and the guy said, “If any of you can name this band, I'll give you a loaf of bread.”

My non-musical husband thought for a second and then said, “The Band.”

After the guy scraped his chin off the floor, he said, “Okay, so what do you want? Sourdough? Rye?” 

My husband said, “I already know your sourdough is good, so I’ll take the rye. And when you deliver, it better be warm.”

***

Yesterday I had a bowl of leftover punjabi-style black lentils. They're supposed to have cilantro sprinkled on top, but I used parsley instead.


I ordered the black lentils since I couldn't find any in the grocery store. It felt a little ridiculous, spending 15 dollars for several cups of legumes that my family probably wouldn't like all that much, but I did it anyway, chalking it up to self-education and sophistication and a palate-stretching exercise. Anything to justify, right?

Full menu disclosure: Late morning, I found a pint box of leftover chips in the back hall and ate half of them while staring out the little window at my older daughter, watching as she patiently trailed her horse around the field trying to catch her. And after lunch I had some leftover apricot wreath with coffee, and a couple chocolates.

***

What did you eat for lunch today? Are you a planner, or more of a wing-it luncher? Do you eat the same thing every day, or are you all about the variety? Apparently, I'm a leftover wing-it-er, and the more variety the better. I'm a grazer, too, though it's often to my detriment. 

Inspiration for this post comes from Cup of Jo.

This same time, years previous: last and first, the quotidian (3.21.16), piggies!, a morning's start, over the moon, the walk home, our house lately, getaway.

Monday, March 20, 2017

the quotidian (3.20.17)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace


Color crunch.


An experiment: white chocolate, apricot, and almond. 




Getting his chocolate on. 


Pig, a still life. 


The candid cook.


Cold snap.


Bunged up and full of stories: the snowboarders.


Snowflake shake.


Oh, hay!


Long past their prime, but I can't bring myself to throw them out.


Sun-soaked.

This same time, years previous: all things Irish, a good reminder, the last weekend, the creative norm, warmth, no buffer, family time, roasted vegetables, bedtime ghost stories, it's about enough.